BEIRUT, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) confirmed Friday that Turkey has requested to withdraw its contingent from the peacekeeping force after two Turkish pilots were abducted in Beirut.
Turkish Pilots Murat Akpinar and Murat Agca were kidnapped early on Friday on their way from Beirut's international airport to a hotel in the Lebanese capital, a security source told Xinhua.
UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said the force was informed by Ankara of its decision to "withdraw its contingent from the peacekeeping forces operating in South Lebanon, effective the first week of September 2013."
Tenenti clarified that Turkey shall only withdraw its engineering and construction experts unit while maintaining its presence within UNIFIL's naval forces.
Furthermore, Tenenti expressed appreciation of the Turkish contingent's contribution to the development of infrastructure and services within UNIFIL's scope of operations in southern Lebanon since it joined the force in 2006.
In May 2012, 11 Lebanese pilgrims were kidnapped in Syria's northern Aleppo province as they were on their way back to Lebanon by from a pilgrimage in Iran.
Sheikh Abbas Zgheib, assigned by the Higher Islamic Shiite Council to investigate the incident, was quick to deny any involvement by the pilgrims' families in the kidnapping of the Turks.
Spokeswoman for the families Hayat Awali also stressed that they had no link to the two Turks' abduction.
The families have in the past months held several protests near the Turkish embassy and airline offices in Beirut. They accuse Ankara of procrastinating in the negotiations with the rebels, who have kidnapped the pilgrims, to secure their release.
ANKARA, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- Turkish Foreign Ministry has warned its citizens against non-essential travel to Lebanon and called those already in the country to return home after two Turkish pilot were kidnapped in Beirut on Friday.
Earlier in the day, a Turkish Airlines pilot and his assistant were kidnapped in an ambush on a bus in Lebanon's capital of Beirut, a security source told Xinhua. Full story